Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Man From Beijing, Henning Mankell

I made two New Year's resolutions this year. (1) Read two books a month. (2) Complete each book I begin. Both of these resolutions were made to keep me focused on reading. I went to college for a degree in English Literature. After I graduated, I found myself reading fewer and fewer books. Maybe I was worn out? So far, I have only put one book down with no intention of completing. And, I have completed 21 books this year (3 books shy of the goal of 24 a year). With this being said, I did not complete The Man From Beijing.

I decided to try and read a genre I haven't read in years. Crime fiction. Mystery novels. They are very popular right now. Especially Swedish crime novels. I asked two women I work with for recommendations. They both agreed the author Henning Mankell is a promising read. I picked his newest novel as it is not part of a series of detective novels he has been writing over the years.

The story starts out fairly small. An entire village, tiny village (19 residences), is massacred. Of course the point of the novel... why? who? Sounds like an interesting start. How does an entire village end up dead? How is no one aware the murders are taking place from one house to the next? The only clue is a red ribbon.

The novel quickly becomes larger than an incident. The novel travels back to 1863. The story moves from Sweden to China to Arizona to Africa, etc. This is the definition of an international crime novel. I am not a fan of large novels. I have said this before and will probably repeat myself many more times. I like small scenes, single narrators... postmodern fiction.

I can't fault the novel for being exactly what it sets out to be. In fact, it does everything very well. The suspense, the characters, the flow of past and present, the travel from one continent to another. Even Mankell's writing (or, the translation) are pretty respectable. Just not my cup of tea.


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